Nursery Rhymes

Siege Weapon Design

Middle Ages - Lords and Ladies

Siege Weapon Design
There were many factors to take into consideration when deciding upon siege weapon design. Medieval Siege warfare and building siege weapons was an extremely expensive business! All sieges had to be carefully planned and the exact type and number of siege weapons and their design had to be established. Medieval Lords, knights and their Siege Engineers identified the weakest parts of the Castle or town that they needed to attack and planned the siege weapon design accordingly.

Siege Weapon Design Factors
The following elements had to be discussed and taken taken into account before arriving at the final decision for the siege weapon design.

  • Strength and size of the castle or town to be attacked
  • Potential weak points
  • The number of fighting men and the resources inside the castle
  • What was the morale of the enemy like - could this be reduced further by fear and intimidation?
  • The fear instilled by the massive siege weapons could help with this
  • What supplies were likely to be available in the castle?
  • Was there a supply route for new supplies - access to the sea? Could this prolong the siege and increase the expense involved?
  • Was Fresh water readily available?
  • What were the strength and types of weapons inside the castle?
  • The Fortifications of the Castle - The attackers needed to identify all the weak spots of the Castle. Defences such as a Portcullis, Drawbridge, Barbican, Murder Holes and Moat would have to be surmounted with the help of siege engines
  • The correct position for the siege engines had to be established to ensure maximum effectiveness with minimum casualties!
  • The land surrounding the castle would be checked out to determine the local materials which were available for building the siege engines and whether they would be suitable for the siege weapon design
  • The size of the castle wall would determine the height and the siege weapon design
  • The next stage would be to estimate the length of time required to build the siege weapon
  • Then the resources, in terms of man power, required to build the siege engine and ensuring that skilled siege weapon makers were available, such as carpenters and blacksmiths, to make the parts of the siege engine
  • Ensure a sufficient and the correct type of tools were available to build the siege engines
  • Finally oxen had to be slaughtered to obtain wet hides necessary to cover some parts of siege weapons e.g. siege towers, to minimise casualties. Arrangements often had to be made to have them imported

The whole area outside the castle became a noisy hive of activity. The siege weapon design had been finalised and the siege engines would be built! Battle plans had to be drawn - no two sieges were ever conducted in exactly the same way. During this siege weapon preparation period the attackers would seek terms of surrender with the enemy. Failure to 'Come to Terms' resulted in siege warfare and the use of the terrifying siege weapons. The section detailing Siege Warfare provides details of siege tactics, the Chivalric Code, surrender and negotiation.

Siege Weapons
Middle Ages Index

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